North Coast 500 - routes?

A friend and I are hoping to do a cycling holiday roughly following the North Coast 500 around Scotland. My friend is not an experienced cyclist, but is young and in good shape, so we would probably do 50 miles or so each day.

Before I dive into detailed planned, I thought I would ask whether any CTC-ers have anyone done it before (in full or in part) and have advice to impart re routes? We are happy to make deviations from the official route to account for us being cyclists, not drivers, and in search of interesting sights.


  • Just to add very quickly - we would be okay with gentle off-road trails, the type that could be handled on hybrid tyres, as well as roads.
  • edited on 28 Jun 2019 at 20:46
    Hi Amol,

    David Kurtz has twice led a tour in Northern Scotland, mostly recently in 2016 -- route here

    From my own experience of riding there (most recently in 2013), I'd offer the following random notes:

    1) It's well worth avoiding the A9 between Brora and Wick if you can -- it's one of the few really busy routes. In any case, the west coast is scenically much more dramatic than the east, so cutting off the far north-eastern corner by going inland (as David did) is a good idea anyway.

    2) Otherwise, the roads (even the A roads) have all been really quiet (many are still single track with passing places) -- mostly less busy than the country lanes we use on our Sunday rides.  However, I've heard anecdotally that the North Coast 500 marketing has changed that somewhat recently, with big motorhomes a particular problem. 

    3)  I wouldn't recommend relying on finding accommodation on spec, unless you are camping -- remember that most of the places you'll go through are very small, with long distances between them.  

    4)  The whole of the north-west coast is scenically dramatic, but for me the real cycling highlight is the Bealach na Ba between Loch Kishorn and Applecross -- it's the closest you'll get to an Alpine pass in the British Isles ...

  • Hi Richard

    That is incredibly helpful, as always, especially your focus on the north-west coast rather than the north-east coast. In any case I intend to do LEJOG separately next year, so the north-east coast is easily cut out.

    I have heard similar things to you about larger numbers of visitors after the introduction of the North Coast 500, so I will particularly heed your advice about pre-booking accommodation.

    Many thanks again!
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